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Marlborough Cup will not go ahead but spirit set to live on

The Marlborough Cup, the UK's only timber race, is to be discontinued in its current format and to be replaced by other exciting developments planned for the future. The seventh running of the race, along with its support events - The Silver Fox and Countryside Fair - had been set to take place on Sunday 26 May 2002. The organisers' decision has been made following an acknowledgement, after much thought and analysis that timber racing in the UK has only developed a 'niche' appeal.

However, founder of the event and owner of The Marlborough Cup course at Barbury, Count Konrad Goess-Saurau, has announced outline plans, which will build positively on the foundations of the past seven years, adapt to a constantly changing sport and, at the same time, keep the spirit of The Marlborough Cup alive. The Marlborough Cup team will now work on a plan to develop an end-of-season Marlborough Festival of countryside racing at the Fullers Barbury Castle point-to-point course in years to come. This is likely to incorporate a relaunched Silver Fox Hunt Team Challenge which has become a successful support event since the first running of The Marlborough Cup, attracting teams from over 30 hunts across the UK and Europe.

The in-house organisational team, based at Temple Farm, Rockley, including Marlborough Cup Racing Director, Scarlett Crew will organise and continue to promote new initiatives.

Explains Count Goess-Saurau:

"We have employed every method possible to both minimise the risk of injury and encourage trainers to enter top quality horses; and these were beginning to make an impact by 1999. However, looking at the racing world, as it is today, I cannot see it being anything more than an uphill struggle to establish enough horses of the calibre we need to grow the sport safely over here. In addition, there is no doubt that last year's cancellation, due to the FMD outbreak, broke the momentum of our campaign.

"I am obviously disappointed that we have been unable to sustain my ultimate vision and I am sad for my team here who have put a lot of work and dedication into developing the event and support for the sport in the UK. Having said that, I have gained immense enjoyment working on the project and providing connections of past runners with a unique sporting challenge.

"I still think there is a future for professional timber racing and firmly believe that it will work better as part of our new plans for a timber-style cross country race which may also include other types of cross country fences, as is increasingly becoming the trend in America."

Count Konrad Goess-Saurau cited the following factors as contributing to the recent Marlborough Cup decision:

The increasing number of alternative options for trainers to run their good jump horses in the UK and overseas including: Cheltenham's cross country races, overseas cross country races like the Pardubice and new international races like The Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan. In addition, today there is now a wider choice of top hunter chase events across the UK. And, of course, other events have had to think more about safety, including The Grand National, where the fences have become less punishing following adjustments made to the fences over the last few years.
The number of standard National Hunt fixtures and Summer jump racing has meant that trainers are often too busy preparing for standard races, to focus on the different type of training required for a timber racehorse.
The difficulty of filling the 'tradition' gap in this country, compared to America, where they have been timber racing in Maryland and Virginia for over 100 years, so have more experience in training and competing horses over timber
The higher cost of running such an event under Jockey Club rules

Continues Count Goess-Saurau: "We have listened to those who have expressed a desire to see more races in the one day and have already embarked on the first steps to redesign the Fullers Barbury Castle racecourse by adding some diagonal loops which criss-cross the point-to-point track. Sadly we will have to wait an estimated 2/3 years to allow the new turf to become established, before we will be in a position to host such a Festival. However, I hope it will be as warmly accepted as The Marlborough Cup has been in recent years and am genuinely excited by the prospect of these new developments," ends Count Goess-Saurau.

Added Gurney Sheppard, Jockey Club Steward and Chairman of The Jockey Club Timber Racing Committee: "Konrad has put a huge amount of enthusiasm, effort and money into The Marlborough Cup and we will be sad to lose this exciting and professionally run fixture. However, we entirely understand his sentiments and wishes and we hope to continue working with The Marlborough Cup team on a new Festival for the future."

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